Judge rules former detective must testify

by Keith Barber


Former Winston-Salem police Detective Donald R. Williams could testify during a closed session of the Winston-Salem City Council as early as next month about his role as lead investigator in the 1995 Silk Plant Forest-Jill Marker assault case. Forsyth County Judge Edgar B. Gregory upheld the city of Winston-Salem’s summons to compel Williams to testify during a court hearing on April 9. Gregory said the retired detective must appear before the city council after 30 days, which allows Williams’ attorneys time to appeal the court’s order and present legal arguments for one of the former detective’s prayers for relief. Williams is asking for the city of Winston- Salem to pay his legal fees related to his appearance before the council. Gregory denied Williams’ nine other prayers for relief contained in his response to the summons, which was issued after Williams failed to respond to a subpoena and appear before city council on Dec. 17. Williams had requested that the court issue a gag order on committee members to prohibit them from releasing any information to the public or the press; and that Williams receive all questions by the committee in advance of his appearance. Parrish said he would not appeal Gregory’s decision, but he would continue to research case law to bolster his argument that the city should pay all of Williams’ legal expenses. “It’s simply an issue that this occurred during the course of his employment and they’ll make a determination on that. I don’t know what their position is but at present, it appears they don’t want to pay,” Parrish said. “There are two provisions in the city code. We’re going to look at that and see if we can get it. If we can’t get it, it’s going to be my pro bono case of the decade.” Williams’ request that the citizen review committee make no findings related to the guilt or innocence of Kalvin Michael Smith came in response to a resolution adopted by the committee last month, which declared that the committee could find no credible evidence to show that Kalvin Michael Smith was at the Silk Plant Forest shop on Dec. 9, 1995 at the time of attack on store clerk Jill Marker. In 1997, a Forsyth County jury convicted Smith of armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the Silk Plant Forest assault. Smith has steadfastly proclaimed his innocence. He is currently serving a prison sentence of up to 28 years at the Albemarle Correctional Institute in New London. In January, Judge Richard L. Doughton denied Smith’s motion for a new trial after aweeklong hearing, stating his defense team failed to prove their claims. Committee members Bill Davis and Barry Lyons forcefully objected to the resolution during the March 17 meeting, saying it went beyond the committee’s scope as prescribed by the city council. Parrish echoed the same objections during the April 9 hearing, saying the committee has gone beyond its charge. “In my opinion, they’re out of bounds of the scope that has been rendered and the purpose that has been rendered by the city council,” Parrish said. “Three [committee] members already say that there’s no evidence of his guilt and that he should be freed. That’s outside their scope.” However, the committee resolution adopted in March clearly states that it does not make a claim regarding Smith’s guilt or innocence. A separate resolution asking the city council to pursue all legal avenues to have Smith freed from prison failed by a vote of 2-7. Parrish said he would direct Williams to answer only questions regarding whether or not police procedures were properly followed in the investigation of the Silk Plant Forest assault case. “We don’t have any [problem] sitting down and answering questions about police procedure all day,” Parrish said. Councilman Dan Besse said the city council has previously discussed the format of Williams’ appearance. “We did not anticipate that committee members would be asking questions,” Besse said. “Discussions have centered on [Winston-Salem police] detectives [Sgt. Chuck] Byrum and [Lt. Joseph] Ferelli, and the city attorney will be asking the questions. We would not have council members asking questions.” Byrum and Ferelli have served as the Silk Plant Forest Citizen Review Committee’s investigators for the past year. Committee chair Guy Blynn said he believes committee members would have liked to question Williams. Still, he expects all nine members of the committee to be present at the closed session meeting “to listen and judge credibility.” “If he is able to and willing to give us a full and frank recounting of what he did and how he did it, I think it will be very important,” Blynn said. Even if the questions directed to Williams are restricted to police procedure in the case, Blynn said he believes there is much that can be learned from the former detective’s recounting of his actions during the two-year investigation. “The procedures are very broad, they contain a lot of information,” Blynn said. “The questions would simply be, ‘What did you do? What didn’t you do? And why did you do it?’”

Former Winston-Salem police detective Donald R. Williams (center)listens with attorneys Steven Smith (left) and Carl Parrish as JudgeEdgar B. Gregory hands down his ruling April 9 that Williams will haveto comply with the Winston-Salem City Council’s subpoena and testifyabout police procedure in the Silk Plant Forest-Jill Marker assaultcase. Williams, the lead detective in the case, could testify beforethe council as early as next month. (photo courtesy of theWinston-Salem Journal)